KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Timbers' Attack vs. Zac MacMath

Timbers to test young Philly 'keeper MacMath

Highly touted rookie Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath did not quite have the happiest of matches in his first career MLS start on Wednesday night against the New England Revolution. By the 33rd minute, the Revs were up 4-1 and MacMath and company were looking a little shellshocked in their own home field.

While his Union teammates Sebastien Le Toux and Freddy Adu were able to help launch a spirited and dramatic comeback to draw 4-4 (and almost win in the dying seconds), the fact that remains that as a goalkeeper, you never want to let in goals—let alone four.

The Union have been quick to support the young keeper saying that defensive lapses were as much to blame as anything, though how quickly MacMath will be able to put that game behind him could have a large impact on his next match against the Portland Timbers on Saturday night (4:30pm PT, ROOT Sports101 FM KXL RadioLa Pantera 940 AM) and leads us to Timbers soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up of the Match.

Robbie Earle's
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
Timbers' Attack vs. Zac MacMath

Selected 5th overall in last winter’s MLS SuperDraft, MacMath has spent much of the 2011 season as a young understudy to the Union's All-Star Faryd Mondragon. With Mondragon out due to a broken finger, MacMath has had to hold down the fort for a team that is also looking to stay in the playoff hunt. Saturday’s match will be Philly’s third game in eight days and they’ll face a Timbers team that has not played since August 24.

Despite MacMath’s young age, Timbers head coach John Spencer is by no means taking him lightly. He said of MacMath, “He looks like he’s got an old head on young shoulders. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.” Spencer knows of what he speaks. He showed no hesitation in starting fellow young ‘keeper Jake Gleeson early in the season who played well in picking up his own first career MLS victory in the memorable inaugural home opener back in April.

But the Timbers come into PPL Park with loads of rest and on the heels of two back-to-back home wins that have catapulted them into the playoff race as they sit in a tie for the 10th and last spot with the New York Red Bulls. Apart from a marked ability to maximize their home-field advantage, those two wins were keyed by an invigorated Timbers offense which moved the ball well throughout the midfield. Diego Chara picked up his first goal of the season against Vancouver in an inspired performance and has been in particular form of late with both speed and pace along with excellent distribution towards fellow Colombian Jorge Perlaza and strike partner Kenny Cooper.

Can that offensive fluidity continue against a potentially apprehensive MacMath? Will the Philadelphia defense overcompensate in protecting him thus opening up more space for Portland forwards? Or does MacMath overcome the recent shellacking to put forward a newly confident performance. The Timbers offensive attack would do well to test him early and often to snatch an early lead on the road. Do that, and the Portland march to the playoffs could continue apace.